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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

Over and Under Radar

Marina is at the AWP convention in Chicago today: In case you don’t recognize the initials, this is an organization for “writers and writing programs” — as in undergraduate, MFA, and professional authors. But if you look at the link I included you will notice ever more attention to YA, with familiar authors of ours speaking, and panels organized around questions related to writing for teenagers. The evident presence of YA in this conference reflects a number of trends: how hard it is to get published in the adult world, the boom in YA (fiction) sales, the increasing freedom YA authors feel to experiment and explore form and content. These financial, cultural, aesthetic trends have both encouraged adult authors who might have loved YA but not expected to write for that audience to do so, and suggested that the frustrated author unable to crack adult might shift to this more welcoming territory. The results for us in YA have been uneven, but looking at the AWP schedule we can see the ferment — the stirring — that brings new authors to us. Of course this is overwhelmingly a matter of fiction and it may be some time before we see panels on writing YA NF at AWP.

Speaking of NF, Marina’s panel is on research and memoir: if you are writing a memoir, as she is, when do you go out past what you recall to what you can learn, and how to blend that personal voice of memory with the fruits of research? This is a big deal panel with some famous names on it, but that is not why she is abuzz. Marina published a piece in The Daily Beast yesterday
in which she talked about another sense of being under radar: how — in adult, not YA — some leading male novelists seem to dismiss or not notice female novelists (occasioned by Jonathan Franzen’s rather odd essay on Edith Wharton in the New Yorker). It is interesting — you might say YA was to adult as adult female authors were to adult male authors. But now YA has become visible and appealing — so that leaves it to us: in adult, fiction and NF are peers — with fiction having prehaps more cache, but NF visible in stores and the media. In YA, fiction rules and NF is barely visible — under radar, as out of sight as Edith Wharton was to Jonathan Franzen. But as we know from Jeremy Lin, just because people don’t notice you doesn’t mean you can’t play — the problem is in their eyes, not your potential. I wonder when AWP wlll notice us?